Ship Disaster

31 Mar, '06

`Rescue workers bring a body ashore in Manama after a passenger boat sank off the coast of Bahrain in the Gulf, March 30, 2006
Rescue workers bring a body ashore in Manama after a passenger boat sank off the coast of Bahrain in the Gulf, March 30, 2006

MANAMA (Reuters) – At least 57 people drowned when a tourist boat carrying more than 130 people on a dinner cruise sank off Bahrain, a coastguard official said on Friday.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry told Al Jazeera television that 67 survivors had been found. Rescue operations were underway to search for more survivors of Thursday’s sinking of the vessel carrying Asians, Arabs and Europeans.

“There are a large number of those who died who were not carrying identification so it’s hard to determine who they were and where they come from,” the spokesman, Colonel Tarek al-Hassan, said.

My heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who needlessly lost their lives or were injured in this incident, and fervently hope that government agencies in charge of regulating the tourism, safety and security industries put in sterner laws to protect visitors and residents alike, and mount an honest and transparent investigation of this disaster in order to learn from it and save future lives.

People who were directly responsible for flouting safety laws should be punished, and this business should undergo an immediate investigation into their operation, training and certification of their staff and their safety measures.

May they all rest in peace.

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Comments (32)

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  1. wilhelm says:

    Mahmood very tragic and sad. The captain on any vessel is the final authority no questions asked pressure and wasta should not mean nothing the captain had a gut feeling and should have stuck with it. I am sorry to say he should fry for this, unfortunetly he was pressured and gave in against his better judgement.

  2. Kieran / Hong Kong says:

    So sorry to learn of this tragedy Mahmood. As you said, may the victims rest in peace.

  3. angelo says:

    Just an FYI really:

    1) A hot line has been set up by the Interior Ministry for people seeking information about their relatives, friends who were on board, If you’re inside Bahrain, please dial 1-777-00000, if you’re calling from overseas, please dial

    2) For Singaporean nationals, please call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have set up a hotline at their duty office in Singapore and are assisting those affected by the tragedy on 6379 8800 / 6379 8855 if you’re calling from Singapore and if you’re calling from overseas please dial 0065-6379-8800 / 0065-6379-8855 or email

    am blogging updates on info when I get it, unfortunately there is not a lot happening on confirmations, however as of 11.30am, Dr. Ansari head of the ER team at SMC stated in a radio interview that the survivor count has reached 70 and they are expecting the casualy count to rise.

  4. B Lady says:

    Before jumping to harsh conclusions, perhaps Wilheim should consider the lack of authority that many people suffer here – the Captain may not have had a real choice, only a theoretical one. Let’s wait for the inquiry to find the facts. However, some people’s evidence will be given more weight than others and if the captain turns out to be poor or from the Indian subcontinent, experience suggests that he is unlikely to get a fair hearing. We don’t live in a fair world and in Bahrain justice is just a dream for many. Meanwhile we can help the suffering and pray for those who are affected by this terrible tragedy.

  5. Khalid says:

    I was shocked when I first heard the news late last night, and I tell you, this was the top story here in London.

    I seems that the ship was overloaded and that the captain was pressured. If this is true, then the tourism company in charge must be prosecuted. I still don’t understand, if they knew the capacity upfront, why didn’t they hire another boat and avoid this? We just have to wait for the investigation and see what happens. I just hope that it’s a fair trial and the scenario that B Lady mentioned doesn’t happen.

    This is a major wakeup call for Bahrain and I sincerely hope that this won’t ever happen again.

    As for the victims: Allah yerhamkom / RIP.

  6. wilhelm says:

    This is the problem with employing low wage people from india than can be bullied very easily and all for losing there job forget safety and dignity.
    at havana cold store in tubli with my wife two 13 year old Bahraini kids come in and demand smokes the guy says not allowed they speak some trash to he gets scared of losing his job and getting wacked and sells them smokes, I asked him what the fock you are doing tells me they will slap him well Yousif this is a systemic problem. Do yo think a German boat captain would have taken off with a unsafe boat. you want third world ferry captains that are affraid of there shadow know you have them congrats. And sorry Blady but simple maritime law and coomon sense he was in charge and should have refused if unsafe and not sailed the ship and wlked away, desperate people will do desperate things.

  7. BinShehab says:

    Listening to the media or the official press release is one thing and witnessing what happen is anther thing, as I and my friends ware on anther dhow and witness what happening as we ware close by, all what we can help is saving 7 people from the other dhow, 3 Births and 2 Filipino couples.

    Witnessing such a thing is not pleasant specially when you aiming to have a good time with friends.

    I will not go on to the details of what happen or whose fault is this, I have one question: DO WE NEED A DISIATER EVERYTIME TO MAKE SURE THE SYSTEM WORKS?

    Sorry for the life who had been lost, because I couldn’t do something else to help them.

  8. Alfie says:

    A sad day for Bahrain, may the souls of the departed rest in peace.

    Wonder if the earthquake in Iran was responsible for the wave that caused the dhow to tip over, cos normally the waters of Bahrain hardly have any strong waves.

    Also what upset me was even though the maximum casualties were Indians, almost all the early reports mentioned all countries except India.

  9. tooners says:

    This is terrible! May their souls rest in peace, and may God help those family members suffering from the loss of their loved ones.

    It is time for Bahrain to wake up and look at some very serious issues surrounding who they employ, their qualifications, safety regulations…. so many things. It sure is sad that something like this had to happen in order for ppl to open their eyes to potential problems, but it’s always the case.

    I truly wonder if this will change anything when it comes to the way things are done. I sure hope so.

    BUT….. look at the number of deaths daily on the roads in Bahrain … and the number of kids that are killed in road accidents because they’re not in car seats or wearing seat belts, or even the ppl that are killed from speeding and not wearing seat belts. I know this is off the subject, but it seems that there are many high up ppl that don’t care about whether or not safety regulations are followed, laws are obeyed, etc. etc. I see cars every day on the roads that have kids in the front seats on the laps of their parents (babies) and a police officer will speed by on his ‘big police officer motorbike’ and do nothing. I’ve been in the suq and police officers will stop cars w/ babies or kids in the front seats or not belted up properly and tickets aren’t given…. my husband and I saw this happening and the Bahraini mother just yelled at the guy and started giving excuses and he waved them on.

    Sorry to say… but I have serious doubts about real laws and safety regulations being enforced when you have ppl who refuse to obey laws. This boating accident is just another very sad and terrible example.

  10. Anonymous Coward says:

    This incident would have attracted very less attention from the goverment if all the victims were locals.

  11. Head monkey says:

    I was on that very same boat the night before. It was listing 5 degrees to port the entire time and appeared a bit top heavy. I can’t imagine 150+ people on that boat, especially if the majority were on the upper deck. It would not take a big wave to capsize that boat, just a well timed one.

    It is very sad and tragic and my heart goes out to the parents, friends, loved ones and children of those who lost their lives. I pray that God gives them strength to endure the pain and grief.

  12. Adel says:

    The guy who owns the boat has very good tourism ideas and I think his boat is the only one in Bahrain so he was indated with requests to rent the boat and lacking the experience and banking on that this type of boat is run in Dubai for the same purposes for a long time without any incidents and also captined by Indians, he aparently didn’t insure the boat and did not make sure to impose the safety occupants limit. also his captian has experience in normal Banoosh’s not the Double Decker ones, which could collapse more easily on turning. I think he should be prosecuted and be forced to compensate the families of victims.

  13. Are you kidding me Adel? Trying the captain should be the last order of business. It is the entire system that’s messed up. I’m sorry to break it you, but the captain was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Had he refused to move the ship, he would’ve proabably been be fired – in one way or the other. By not doing so, he put the lives of his passengers in danger.

    Now, his decision was obviously wrong and I’m not even debating that. But one’s gotta realize that it’s the system that requires reform. Wastas, connections, etc override rules, regulations and the law in Bahrain. Until that mentality is altered, don’t expect change anytime soon.

    That said, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the families and relatives of those involved. May God bless your souls and may you rest in peace. Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi raji3oon.

  14. Khalid says:

    Well, here is the article today in the GDN (one out of many). Apparently, it’s a bogus captain just to add to the drama and there was an overload because of the food and fridges, etc. and not the people.


    The “captain” of the dhow which capsized off Muharraq, killing at least 57 people, was not licensed, it was revealed last night. He has been arrested, along with his co-captain, prosecution director Nawaf Hamza told a Press conference at the Civil Defence headquarters.

    He said the dhow was also overloaded, though this was not necessarily the direct cause of the disaster.

    Fifty-seven bodies had been recovered, 67 people rescued and two were still missing last night.

    Mr Hamza said the “captain” of the ill-fated Al Dana, which capsized with 126 people aboard, was not qualified to be at the helm.

    “He is just a sailor and not ready to handle the job. This makes him responsible, under criminal law.

    “He could get five years under criminal law, but that doesn’t mean he is alone.

    “Under civil law the owner is responsible for his worker, but not under criminal law.

    “We don’t know if the boat is insured third party, but any compensation could only come through a civil lawsuit and not through the criminal court.”

    The dhow was hired by contracting joint-venture Nass, Murray & Roberts to celebrate completion of the concreting work at the Bahrain World Trade Centre.

    All the bodies had been identified and cleared for relatives to claim them, said Mr Hamza.

    “We have also started questioning survivors, organisers and those involved and based on investigations the number of people on the dhow is 126 guests and crew members,” he said.

    Mr Hamza said a technical committee was being formed to examine whether the dhow had been functioning properly and safety regulations met.

    The committee will be sworn in at the Public Prosecution office today.

    l Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa will appear before parliament for informal questioning tomorrow, it was announced last night.

  15. I remember the hearings about the Exxon Valdez, in which it came out that Exxon knew the captain had a serious alcohol problem. And Alaska’s emergency managemant worst-case scenario was an oil spill a tenth of the size of what they got. There was lots of reform following that disaster; I hope it stuck.

    I think the thing for the rest of us to carry away is that we can’t trust our safety to “the system”, to safety rules and regulations, or to some business owner we don’t know. Some people see other folks crowding onto a cruise ship, or a ferry, or whatever, and their herd mentality kicks in and they crowd on too. If you’re about to get on a cruise ship and it doesn’t look safe to you, don’t get on.

  16. Adel says:

    Agree with you Nomad about the system. I called for trying the owner in my post.

  17. Devils Advocate says:

    I find it ludicrous that everybody is jumping at the government without wanting to try the captain or even the organizors of the trip.

    If the captain is unqualified and unfit to “just say no”, wouldn’t you think that engineers of the WTC of Nass, Murray and Roberts, all of which are expats of the more sophisticated West, would be able to understand why there is a maximum count on board the ship and not force their way?!!!!

    Germans are from Germany right? and Germany is a Western country… Hmmm…..

    Everyday, there are tragedies, all over the world, in the East, West …. all over. Everybody gets emotional but nobody questions the governments. One tragedy happens here and God forbid, why should anybody think rationally. Its always easier to blame the government!! Those that have not had an hours sleep since it happened…..

  18. mahmood says:

    Everyday, there are tragedies, all over the world, in the East, West …. all over. Everybody gets emotional but nobody questions the governments. One tragedy happens here and God forbid, why should anybody think rationally. Its always easier to blame the government!! Those that have not had an hours sleep since it happened…..

    Everyone blames the government here simply because it has its tentacles inserted in EVERY facet of our lives. There is NO independent thought, there is NO accountability.

    Had the government divested itself of hugely corrupt ministries and what they oversee and given those tasks to private industry which is well regulated and held to account, incidents like this would happen less but if and when they do happen, those responsible will be punished.

    Once that happens, the government can go and get as much sleep as it wants even during disasters like these.

    Who do you think is responsible for KILLING 57 PEOPLE other than a Ministry of Information who controls licensing for these tourism ventures when they give out licenses probably because of the backhanders some corrupt official receives, or even worse no backhander but a moron whose only claim to that job is his connections rather than his knowledge?

    Who do you think is responsible for KILLING 57 PEOPLE other than a Ministry of Interior under whose auspices come the coast-guard who should have the responsibility of licensing “captains” and other seafarers?

    Who do you think is responsible for KILLING 57 PEOPLE who licensed this operation without demanding liability insurance?

    Apprehending the “captain” and his “first officer” is a good first step to find out the truth OF HOW THEY WERE GIVEN AUTHORITY TO OPERATE THE BOAT, but the real people who should be apprehended are the owners of the boat who need ALL their accounts frozen immediately to pay out compensation to the families. They should be beggared and thrown in the street for all I care and they should not even be given a government housing unit. It was and is their responsibility first and foremost.

    The Minister of Information should be IMMEDIATELY relieved of his duties and so should the Minister of Interior for allowing such a thing to happen. Heads should roll, and I wouldn’t mind even seeing the person responsible for the aforementioned two ministers brought to book for this unnecessary waste of human life.

    At the very very least the Ministry of Information should be disbanded, and tourism should be run as a board manned by the people who really know tourism and others whose expertise should be sought in various fields as required, rather than those whose only contribution to tourism is leeching it dry and flout basic safety rules and regulations, or those who bleat in parliament and have the minister jump at their command.

  19. Rich says:

    What’s the point of these ministries issuing licences if an unlicenced capitan is going to take charge?

  20. Yousif says:

    The boat is not insured, not even third-party. So the lawers will have a field day over this. The operator is legally and financially responsible for the deaths of the victims now.

    May God rest their soles

  21. mahmood says:

    I do hope they make an example of this. Nothing will move forward and improve if another pardon just happens…

  22. Anonymous says:

    Heartfelt condolences to the families & friends of all the vistims.May Allah give all of us enough courage to endure this loss & grant peace to the souls.

  23. IDoCare says:

    May Allah grant peace to the victims’s souls & give their famillies/friends courage & strength to endure this pain.
    It is such a pity that something as disastrous as this ferry accident has to remind us to obey the law & respect other’s safety.OK…it was noones fault in particular.Call it illfate.But there were so many people who could have avoided such a terrible thing from happening if they knew what their responsibilitywas.This was clear betrayal of the trust of all the guests when they boarded the ship.The company/owner of the ship could have given the organisers a straight figure about the ships’ capacity so they could have rented another ferry to accomodate all their guests.The recruitment process that employed the captain could have been “fool-proof” so that the candidate had all necessary qualifications & experience-so on this day v dont hav a whole country trying to blame that 1 guy for the loss of so many lives.The organisers could have taken the captains’ advice when he feared an accident on seeing more people on board the ship than it can accomodate.We shouldnt forget that there was a lot of heavy equipment for catering/entertainment/furniture etc onboard the ship apart from the guests & other members of staff.Lastly, the guests could have paid more attention to the announcements the staff made when the Dj got in2 action-apparently a lot of people rushed on2 the upper deck for a dance-causing turbulence & imbalance & a waiteress had adviced them not to get overcrowded on the upper deck.
    having said that….i dont mean the rest of us are free of crime. The lawers, The system of law & justice that exists in this country merely as a mirage,The company that owns the ship( that is likely to blame it all on the captain) and the Government & its “officials” that possibly sat back all the while & overlooked this & similar loop-holes in the system that is supposed 2 ensure safety to the public.All had a part to play in this terrible accident.And God alone knows for how long innocent people will have to pay for the mistakes commited bythe society as a whole. Tomorrow will probably be just another day for the rest of us & v’ll watch the end of this episode of tragedy & pointless accusations with a grand finale of some big-shot-guy offering a letter of condolences 2 the victims’ famillies/friends.(May b some money as compensation…but thats being too unrealistic when u observe the events carefully…& OH YEA!! V r talking abt a lot of asian expats!!).
    Everyones probably thinking “ITS TIME FOR SOME ACTION”;anticipating some reform in the way the government/its people work hereafter.May be if someone infuencial enough thought over this & decides to do something beneficial for the common man & ensure safety to the public in general, v may have a better tomorrow when the law will speak out 4 the common man.
    But my guess is that tomorrow we shall watch the world get back to work & function the same way it did b4 this accident, like noone needs to feel guilty or even feel the need to owe an explanation for what happened.

  24. bahraini4eva says:

    Had the government divested itself of hugely corrupt ministries and what they oversee and given those tasks to private industry which is well regulated and held to account, incidents like this would happen less but if and when they do happen, those responsible will be punished.
    – Exactly Mahmood.

  25. Khalid says:

    Just to spice things up, the dhow was illegal:

    A dhow which capsized off Bahrain, killing at least 57 people, was not licensed to sail, it was revealed last night.

    The Al Dana was licensed only as a first-class floating restaurant, which should never have left the jetty, said Coastguard director Colonel Yousif Al Ghatam.

    He said the owner registered the vessel with the Coastguard on December 25 last year, but was told to fulfil certain criteria for it to be authorised to sail, none of which was done.

    “These included insuring the boat, getting its structure certified to international standards and acquiring a Commercial Registration,” said Col Al Ghatam.

    “The owner repeatedly promised to fulfil these requirements, but did not.

    “This is not a tour ship, it is a floating first-class restaurant, which is registered to anchor at the jetty.

    “Even Information Ministry Under-Secretary Mahmood Al Mahmood, who opened it last month, didn’t know it was allowed to sail.”

    Col Al Ghatam said that had a Coastguard patrol seen the boat sailing, it would have been stopped.

    “We didn’t see the dhow that night, or else we would have stopped it, because its departure was unofficial,” he said.

    Officials revealed on Friday that the dhow’s Indian “captain” was not licensed to be at the helm.

  26. The Joker says:

    Col Ghatam, thats really tough talk coming from the guy that needed 26 minutes to cross less than half a mile. The undersecertary, Al Mahmood, was a boat captain in Mina Salman sea port before he went to the MOI… so don’t you think he had the slightest suspicion that this boat was going to take off one month before the incident? The guy was the VIP in the OFFICIAL INAUGURATION, in case you were wondering devils advocate… he can’t wipe his fingerprints from this train wreck! I mean he must’ve saw those engines and diesel tanks or something.

    One more thing… I hope the MOI doesnt put the last nail in the tourism coffin.

  27. mahmood says:

    Joker, you’re spot on:

    بكلفة 125 ألف دينار, المحمود يفتتح بانوش الدانة السياحي

    فتتح وكيل وزارة الإعلام محمود المحمود بانوش الدانة السياحي بحضور عدد من ممثلي القطاع السياحي والإعلاميين.

    وخلال الجولة البحرية للمركب السياحي العائم قدم رئيس مجموعة الكبيسي التجارية (الجهة المالكة للمركب) عبدالله الكبيسي إيجازاً عن فكرة هذا المشروع السياحي وأهدافه، إذ قال إن «فكرة المشروع قد تبلورت بعد دراسات وأبحاث أجرتها المجموعة عن المواقع السياحية التي تفتقدها المملكة والتي تشكل مطلباً لكل سائح ومقيم ينشد الترفيه والمتعة في أجواء عائلية تعكس طابع كرم الوفادة والترحيب الذي تمتاز به البيئة البحرينية».

    وأشار إلى أن «المشروع بلغت كلفته 125 ألف دينار، وتصل طاقته الاستيعابية إلى نحو 180 شخصاً»، لافتاً إلى أنه «لولا الدعم والمساندة اللذان حظي بهما المشروع من جانب وزارة الإعلام لما كان له أن يرى النور».

    من جهته، أشاد وكيل وزارة الإعلام بالمبادرات التي يتخذها القطاع الخاص لدعم السياحة في المملكة وفق التوجهات المنشودة، مثمناً إقدام مجموعة الكبيسي على تنفيذ مشروع المركب السياحي العائم وفق مواصفات تعكس خصوصية البيئة البحرينية الأصيلة، مؤكداً في السياق نفسه دعم وتشجيع وزارة الإعلام لجميع المستثمرين في القطاع السياحي، وتوفير جميع التسهيلات لهم بما يخدم هذا القطاع الحيوي
    Al-Wasat :: 10 Mar ’06

  28. Anonymous says:

    Allah hav mercy on the rest of us .nobody knows when v’l fall victims to some ignorant high officials’ mistakes.thye dhow accident was just a sample.

  29. Joker says:

    When Katrina happened.. americans blamed their government for not doing enough which got george dubya off his butt.

    In Bahrain, this stupid official that regulates newspapers, the internet, tv, radio, and boats obviously, not only supported this boat as above-mentioned, he even took it for a spin! When the guy was boasting that it can carry 180 people, why didn’t the official interrupt him? knowing that.. he was a sea captain before he moved to the website-shutting business.. so yes he deserves some blame

  30. B Lady says:

    The sad part of all of this is that most probably nothing will change. Consider what happened when a certain 15 year old boy was speeding recently, jumped a red light and hit another car, killing himself? Do we see any increase in enforcement of traffic laws? Do we see any education for drivers eg that jumping a red light endangers life and not necessarily only your own? Do we see any attempt to improve the standard of driving instruction (and that is certainly needed)? No.
    I suspect there will be a cover up of the real villain/s (especially if they are wealthy and connected) and the poor Indian man (we know now that he was not a “Captain”) will be made a scapegoat.

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